Presented Friday night at Rady Shell, the San Diego Symphony’s final concert of the summer season featured a carefully curated selection of flamboyant and dazzling Russian orchestral pieces.
Tchaikovsky’s Symphonic Tales was a departure in both name and content from the original concept and perennial favourite, “Tchaikovsky Spectacular.”
It is common practice to play the “1812 Overture” as the last piece of these concerts, which are held all around the country every summer.
In light of recent developments in Ukraine, the prospect of loud cannons and a Russian military parade seems less appealing than it once did.
Time will tell if late-August classical music events return to outdoor venues and lawns including the overture.
An orchestra and its conductor can be judged greatly by how they handle Tchaikovsky’s music. Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” waltz and polonaise demonstrated the symphony’s contemporary fitness and coherence of its sections with their warm,
thick violins and quick, balanced winds. A great chance to showcase the clarion strength and precision of the brass was presented in the opening declamations of the polonaise.
Tchaikovsky’s lustiest, most earthy dance music can be found in this opera, and conductor Rafael Payare has developed a connection with the orchestra that allows him to bring out the opera’s heaviest, most powerful moments.
Tchaikovsky’s intention to adapt Alexander Pushkin’s novel-length poem as an opera was introduced with effective dramatic narration by Jesse Perez and Shana Wride. The narration included excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s own diary.
The “Tempest Fantasy Overture” by Tchaikovsky is characteristic of Romantic compositions that conjure up the eerie, the bizarre, and the terrible. Perez’s introduction to the long piece from Shakespeare’s play reads like a treatise on the orchestral colours it features:
first, those that suggest foreboding, like the ominous low strings that perfectly blended with dark hues; then, as the clouds part, grand brass climaxes with lifted horns and muted rapturous violins.
The orchestra demonstrated a remarkable capacity to generate momentum over the course of the performance, and their current sound is characterised by a high level of ensemble synchronisation in winds and strings, which was on display in later, triumphal fugal passagework.
Beginning in a similar fashion is “Francesca da Rimini: Symphonic Fantasy after Dante.” As befits a symphonic poem named after the protagonist of Dante’s “Divine Comedy,”
the focus here is on the shadowy and the foreboding, with the bassoons continuing to perform with all the sensitivity and depth of their predecessors despite the minor key.
The work culminates in a high-octane, high-speed bravura that puts the orchestra to the test, much like the climax of the “Tempest” overture.
The upbeat coda was a further sign that our symphony is steadily improving in terms of both its performance chops and its interpretive nuance.
Russian Easter Festival Overture, or Overture on Liturgical Themes, was composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1887. Composers Modest Mussorgsky and Alexander Borodin, who were both friends of Rimsky-and Korsakov’s part of the group known as “The Five,” are honoured here.
It was written by Rimsky-Korsakov to symbolise “the legendary and heathen aspect of the event, the transition from the dismal and enigmatic evening of Passion Saturday to the unrestrained pagan-religious merrymaking on Easter Sunday morning.”
The work borrows heavily from Russian Orthodox liturgical chants for its melodies. The work’s secular and holy vignettes are structured with a staggering programmatic variety,
utilising all the timbres of the late Romantic orchestra, and featuring collective group-playing for the chants and solo episodes that portray the vernacular life of Russian society.
Solos from cello Chia-Ling Chen and flautist Rose Lombardo brought the human characters to life. The low drums and metals (glockenspiel, triangle, cymbals) in the percussion section came through as the unsung heroes of this piece.
Pay appears to be serving only in the capacity of musical director for this ensemble. His movements are intentional and full of life.
He has a strong platform presence and an advanced musical grasp, both of which he uses to communicate well with the musicians. Keep checking TheActiveNews.Com for the latest information.